07/02/2013 07:06 pm ET

Google's 'Frenemy' Relationship with Governments Discussed By Eric Schmidt And Jared Cohen

The Commonwealth Club and Huffington Post San Francisco present Commonwealth Club Thought Leaders, an ongoing series of insights from the most interesting people in the Bay Area. Read the summary below and watch the video above--then share your thoughts.

By John Zipperer

Can a technology and media behemoth such as Google live up to its oft-quoted (and sometimes doubted) motto, “Don’t be evil?"

With government surveillance at the top of the news lately, not to mention cyber-espionage or the role that social media plays in feeding and fighting anti-government uprisings around the globe, the question of the Internet’s disruptive role is not a theoretical one for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google.

Maybe that’s why its leaders went to North Korea.

Yes, North Korea--and Pakistan and China. It was part of a world tour of developing nations by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen as they worked on their new book,
'The New Digital Age: Re-shaping the Future of People, Nations and Business."

In their recent discussion at The Commonwealth Club, Schmidt and Cohen said governments around the world are engaging in cyber espionage of one type or another, and citizens are also harnessing the Internet to protect themselves and project their power. The Google executives made their case to these countries of the benefits of an open and free Internet. You can imagine that was an unwelcome message for some places, such as Pyongyang, where they discovered a Truman Show-type fake subway in the North Korean capital.

Watch the video above to get Google’s take on how government and tech are evolving in partnership and rivalry.

For more thought leaders, visit The Commonwealth Club of California.

Video editor: Mehroz Baig